Mayor Steven Abrams has been the voice of reason leading the Palm Beach County Commission. The mayor has a keen sense of purpose and is acting as the people’s watchdog over how county tax dollars are being spent.
The authority of the inspector general in the Office of the Clerk & Comptroller is limited. The ordinance establishing the new Office of Inspector General (OIG) gave rise to extensive powers. If I understand correctly, Mayor Abrams is proposing the county combine the duties of the two inspectors general. His erudite proposal will automatically end the lawsuit filed by 14 municipalities. His proposal will result in lowering the cost to taxpayers, eliminating overlapping authority and guaranteeing independence from political manipulation because voters will have the final say over how the office performs.
In the heat of high emotions engendered by the arrest of three county commissioners in rapid succession, voters were advised that what was needed was yet another layer of bureaucracy. That advice is costing us $7.5 million. Let me make this clear to voters and local politicians: the $3.5 million that is quoted in the news for the OIG covers salaries for 40 more government employees. That is an average of $87,500 per employee. In addition to the cost to taxpayers of $3.5 million, the county has budgeted another $4 million to house the OIG and to comply with the mandates imposed by the OIG. The bottom line is that the proposal by Mayor Abrams will likely save taxpayers more than $4 million a year, and the combined offices will exercise all the authority granted by voters to the OIG.
The lawsuit by 14 municipalities was inevitable. Sadly, early on I questioned the constitutionality of the proposed OIG ordinance. The response from county officials was that they considered the ordinance constitutional until a judge said otherwise. I suspect that if the lawsuit is not settled, the county will lose, and at great expense to taxpayers. Mayor Abrams is proposing a plan that will make the OIG more efficient and eliminate the unconstitutional argument since the Clerk & Comptroller is constitutionally established.
Frank J. Morelli, Wellington